1. King of bicycle kingdom
Bicycles in China are what cars are to Westerners – a way of life. Chinese of all ages love to bike, and bicycling is one of the main modes of transportation. But if China is “Bicycle Kingdom”, Beijing is no doubt the king of the empire. Once you get to the city, you’ll see why with the hundreds of bikes and bicycle paths on the roads. You probably have a greater chance of dying by getting run over by a bike.
2. Phrasebooks are essential.
Most Beijing citizens, particularly their cab drivers who are very important to tourists, don’t speak English. So make sure you know your crucial Chinese phrases or have a phrasebook in hand. It will also help to have your destinations written in Chinese and have a card of your hotel so you’re sure to reach the right one at the end of the day.
3. Fancier cab, higher rate
Beijing is a city that has a multitude of cabs. But if you’d like to save a few bucks, better pick the less swanky looking ones because the more luxurious cars tend to have higher rates. The good news is many of the cabs have rate stickers on their back windows. Cab rates can vary from 1.6 to 2 RMB.
4. Peking opera is important.
They say you haven’t been to Beijing if you haven’t watched a Peking opera, one of the most important aspects of Chinese culture. Also called Beijing opera, Peking opera is a combination of songs, dialogues, fighting, acrobatics, and more. Whether you enjoy it or not, you can’t deny that it’s one “unique” show.
5. Peking Roast Duck
Peking Roast Duck may be served in restaurants all over the world, but it can’t get any better in Beijing. One of China’s national foods, Peking Roast Duck or simply Peking duck has been eaten in Beijing since the Imperial era and is no doubt the city’s most famous and revered dish. A trip to Beijing is simply not complete without sampling the delicious goodness of original Peking duck offered by hundreds of establishments in the city. A Peking duck dish is usually served with dipping sauce, vegetable filling, pancakes, and glistening slices of meat, juicy fat, and crispy skin.
6. Family size
When you order in restaurants, don’t expect to receive a dish just enough for yourself because food in Beijing (as in most Chinese restaurants) is served family style and meant to be shared. Of course, such large servings of Beijing’s delectable cuisine can only mean joy to most diners.
According to the city’s official census in 2006, the most common surname in Beijing is Wang, a name shared by 10.35% of the population. So don’t be surprised if you meet a lot of Mr., Ms., and Mrs. Wang in the city.
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Photo of bike in Beijing, China, by El Patojo